America’s ‘Longest War’ Is Not Over. It Has Only Begun!

by | Sep 3, 2021 |

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As we now approach the 20th anniversary of attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers and Pentagon that killed very nearly 3,000 people, let’s remember that our original U.S. mission in going into Afghanistan following that horrific assault was to capture al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden who was then believed to be operating from there under Taliban protection.

Recall also, that our ”ally” Pakistan was found to be sheltering bin Laden in a safe house near its premier military academy where U.S. Navy Seals killed him on a secret 2011 raid.

The Biden administration’s disastrous decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan on a hurried and arbitrary time schedule with haphazard planning has now made every one of us less safe from terrorism than we were two decades ago.

In addition to already causing 13 U.S. military and nearly 200 Afghan casualties of suicide bombers amid evacuation chaos at gates of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, it has also left unknown hundreds of other Americans and tens of thousands of our Afghan supporters abandoned to the unmerciful will of Taliban, al-Qaida and ISIS trackers.

And we shouldn’t expect the horrors in Afghanistan to stay in Afghanistan, most particularly due to another incomprehensibly irresponsible decision … namely to pull out of the strategically vital Bagram Air Base 45 miles north of Kabul.

Bagram’s abandonment eliminated a far more accessible and securable evacuation location than Kabul, along with our only remaining airbase and nerve center for monitoring and responding to terrorist buildups and activities throughout the entire land-locked Afghan region.

Located in Afghanistan’s Parwan province 400 miles west of China and 500 miles east of Iran, the sprawling 30-square-mile Bagram facility has two runways that can accommodate military aircraft of any size with simultaneous arrival-departure capabilities.

U.S. Special Operations counterterrorism troops based in Bagram have hunted al-Qaida, the Islamic State, the Taliban, and other militant groups in raids across Afghanistan’s rugged, snow-tipped Hindu Kush mountains to the east.

Fighter jets and drones dispatched in day and night missions from Bagram’s twin runways have conducted reconnaissance and attack missions with broader reach.

Bagram was also the site of Afghanistan’s largest prison, where our pullout allowed the Taliban to free more than 5,000 al-Qaida combatants … the very same Taliban the Biden administration entrusted to secure perimeter access around the Kabul airport.

The base was so important that each of the previous three U.S. presidents visited the airfield during trips to meet the troops.

Nevertheless, on July 2, American troops were ordered to leave Bagram at dead of night without notifying either our NATO or Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) partners. In doing so, they also left behind lots of costly equipment and materials.

Rep. Michael Waltz, R, Fla., a retired Special Forces officer, called the base ”by far the biggest symbol of our 20 years of blood and treasure we have expended for all veterans that have served there.”

”As our only base sandwiched between China, Russia, and Iran, it’s a huge strategic asset.” Waltz then logically asks, ”Why are we just giving it away?”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley’s answer at the time was spectacularly ambiguous. He said, ”It is not necessary for the United States to stay at Bagram for what we’re going to try to do here in Afghanistan.”

But wasn’t that priority supposed to be to safely evacuate civilians before, not after, the troop withdrawal … and to also not gift a highly strategic facility, along with valuable armament assets, to the enemy?

Following a familiar outward finger-pointing pattern, Commander in Chief Biden blamed his military advisers for the decision to surrender Bagram.

Biden told reporters: ”On tactical questions on how to conduct an evacuation or a war, I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan … I ask for their best military judgment.”

Biden said, ”The military [concluded] that Bagram was not much value-added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul, and so I followed that recommendation.”

Biden’s statement was at odds with what Gen. Milley told reporters on Aug 18: ”Our task given to us at the time, was [to] protect the embassy in order for the embassy personnel to continue to function with their consular service and all that.”

Milley added: ”If we were to keep both Bagram and the embassy going, there would be a significant number of military forces that would have exceeded what we had or stayed the same … So we had to collapse one or the other, and a decision was made.”

Biden also reportedly pushed aside advice from Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin who both proposed that the U.S. keep a 2,500-level troop presence in Afghanistan to maintain stability.

In other words, Biden’s decision to close Bagram rested, in turn, upon his own arbitrary Aug. 31 American withdrawal timetable which left too few troops available to protect the much inferior Kabul airport in a city surrounded by Taliban forces whom they counted on to secure perimeter checkpoint access.

Incredulously, Biden’s handlers and top command supplicants not only put Taliban in charge of controlling checkpoints surrounding the Kabul airport, but they also outed the identities of those U.S. Special Immigrant Visa-eligible (SIV) Afghan supporters who were turned back … essentially providing kill lists to be used by Taliban, al-Qaida and ISIS avengers who will now track them down.

That incompetent betrayal of America’s supporters has broadcast a worldwide message to our allies and adversaries that our nation’s leadership cannot be relied upon to honor its commitments.

The self-inflicted consequences of this U.S. leadership fiasco are humiliating and terrifying.

America left Afghanistan with no remaining airbases in the region, no troops on the ground, no friends to trust us, and energized enemies armed with tens of billions of dollars of advanced weapons and a bonanza of hostages for future currency as tragic bargaining pawns.

America’s ”longest war” is not over.

It has only begun.

Image: U.S. Marine Corps photo

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Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the space architecture graduate program. He is the author of several books, including "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), and "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles."

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